-In most areas cold has already set in and coops are getting winterized as I speak (type). I hope this will help anyone still in the ‘thinking about getting chickens‘ mode. And it will also be archived for future reading!
We use the Deep Litter Bedding Method to winterize our coop and run.
Last winter was our first as chicken owners. We were already overly cautious in everything we did – because we were first time chicken owners. We don’t get super-frigid below zero temps here (normally). We may have a stretch of days that drop to single digits but it’s not often. Our average winter temps hover around mid thirties to low forties during the day and at night drop to low thirties to mid twenties. Our winters have been mild and fairly unremarkable but once we got chickens we had to rethink a lot of possible scenarios in order to plan for their comfort and safety. So we did A LOT of RESEARCH on winterizing the coop. We decided the deep litter bedding method made sense for this climate and the style of coop and run we have.
|Nice fluffy straw!|
The deep bedding method is based on biological breakdown of straw, leaves, twigs, chicken poop, bits of feed and food scraps and other organic material… The chickens do the work we would normally do with a garden fork and they are fast and thorough! They constantly scratch, dig and turn what is in the run and as they do it becomes compost. This biological breakdown also creates heat which helps keep the chickens warm. As it breaks down you have to add more organic material to it to keep it deep enough. Rake your yard and the leaves go in the run. Really neat and easy concept when it comes to recycling and composting huh? So much less work in the winter, easier, better for the chickens and not stinky either!
THE RUN AREA-
Our run area is all dirt, no concrete foundation except the footing to keep predators from digging in. This will help speed up the decomposition. I don’t know if you could do the deep bedding on concrete foundation. It may hamper the biological breakdown and I know it would need to be cleaned more often! Has anyone tried the deep bedding on concrete foundation? If so tell us about it.
|Rake a few leaves, put in wheel barrow and dump in run!|
We started winterizing that area by adding straw, dried leaves, pine needles, shredded newspaper, etc. The chickens will keep packing it down as you add more bedding…it’s their favorite part! About twelve inches deep seems to be the standard for the bedding. Through the winter all we did was add organic material to keep the depth and an occasional turn with the garden fork. We cleaned the run out maybe three times through out the winter. The chickens did most of the work, scratching and turning what was added. They thought we were giving them a special treat every time!
THE COOP and NESTING BOXES-
The coop and nesting boxes are raised and the wood floor is tiled over. The roost area is just small enough and high enough that the body heat they put off at night helps keep it warm. Chickens put off a lot of body heat – about 8 BTU’s per pound of chicken per hour. Our six chickens put out close to 200 BTUs per hour and at night with the coop closed up tight and insulation in a few places they stay comfortable. MUCH more comfortable than in the summer when they’re still wearing the down parkas and trying to survive the heat. For extreme cold we do have ‘outdoor safety rated’ wiring and covered light fixture with a 25 watt incandescent bulb mounted safely away from them! We add some insulation in the winter but there are still a lot of gaps in the wood, this helps with ventilation and natural updraft. Good ventilation is necessary to balance all this out! You don’t want to trap moisture in there.
|The windows in summer…|
We use wood shavings for the coop area. The coop and roost area need to be cleaned out a little more often than the run, especially of you have a run of warm days. But the raking and sweeping of wood shavings is quick and easy in that small area.
The nesting boxes are mounted on the outside of the coop so we use straw, same as in the run area layered deep, for warmth. They will fuss with the straw and rearrange it to their preferences. There is an occasional need for cleanup of the nesting boxes (on an as-needed basis). But it is still so easy to pull out the used straw and replace! I love to add dried herbs and flowers when I can.
|Herbs in the nesting boxes – year round|
Every time something is added anywhere in the coop or run the chickens will rearrange to their preference and that keeps them busy and entertained. Keeping them busy and entertained on days they can’t go out is a VERY good thing.
Cleanup in the winter is so much easier than summer – which is a good thing! And when we do have to clean out the run or coop it all goes into our BIG compost pile another GOOD thing
And this year with their seemingly endless molting the like to burrow down deep in the bedding!
I must admit I spent the first winter worrying about them staying warm. But watching them this spring and summer, and how the heat effected them, made me realize they do a pretty good job of keeping themselves warm!
-A note about our eight year old grand-daughter who was hospitalized for several weeks and had two emergency surgeries: She had several perforations in her intestines and was finally diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s Disease (Google if you like). She is going through treatment for it and will have to have special care until spring when they can go in and do final repair. It goes without saying that blogging has been slow and will be slow for a while longer. She is doing well now, back at home and just started back to school! She will be good as new soon. Helping the family out with ANYTHING they need will be priority for a while.